Vaiko used to get immense backing from the media, but the relationship has soured now.

Vaikos love-hate relationship with media Are journalists really unfair to him
news Media Sunday, May 08, 2016 - 14:05

On April 28, several journalists assembled at Thayagam, the MDMK headquarters in Chennai, at 11am to witness the release of the PWF election manifesto. Except, the press meet did not start on time. Vaiko was returning from an unplanned trip to Madurai, and was unexpectedly late. It was nearly 12 30pm when it finally started, and by then two irate journalists from popular English dailies had walked out refusing to stay any longer.

Print journalists have the option of finding out details later and filing copies from the press release, TV journalists don’t. So when Vaiko walked in, flanked by leaders of the communist parties and others in the PWF alliance, two frustrated TV journalists complained to Vaiko that they were made to wait too long.

Vaiko put his copy of the manifesto down calmly, and went on a long-winding explanation as to why he was late. By now, the TV journalists were ruing the moment they decided to complain – he was only wasting more of their time now. Vaiko apologised, but he ended with a snarky and cynical remark, and said, “Next time I will be on time, ok sir?”

This friction between journalists and Vaiko has become a regular feature in all his press conferences. Journalists ask him questions which he thinks are ‘unfair’, and he reacts with irritation and anger, only irking journalists more.

Watch how he walked out of a recent interview here:

And this faceoff between media and Vaiko has ended up becoming more than just a sideshow during the elections. For most of his close aides, media is Vaiko’s real enemy. Later on April 28, when journalists were waiting outside Vaiko’s home in Anna Nagar for a short interview, one of his supporters, sporting a huge Vaiko-studded-ring came to us and asked, “He is the nicest politician you will see. Why are you so unfair to him? Why are you always negative in his coverage?” Soon a couple more joined him in deriding the media.

Few minutes later, a suave young banker who had come to meet Vaiko to offer him his support during the campaign also echoed similar sentiments, and said it was only the media which was the creating troubles for him.

But is the media really unfair to him? Are journalists too critical of him, and don’t offer him the same treatment other politicians of his era get? The media plays the role of bridge between politicians and people, and unfair portrayal could have political consequences.

“There was a time when media backed him, and he used to criticise only Sun TV for blacking him out. But soon he started thrashing the whole media. Media only questions him for his wrong decisions, and he gets angry even with that. Questions are raised even of Jayalalithaa and Karunanidhi, why will he not face scrutiny?” asks Shabbir Ahmed, a TV journalist who was recently at the receiving end of Vaiko’s anger.

“And the problem is that he blacks us out when he is angry, refuses to interact with us. Politicians cannot be like that,” he adds.

Sruthisagar Yamunan of The Hindu says that closer to the elections, Vaiko's confrontation with media is increasingly visible, “But he has always been like that. He is an emotional character. He has not changed, it is the media which has changed its way of responding to him,” he says, and asks, “Why should a TV channel play in loop visuals of him leaving an interview midway over a question he did not like? That’s sensationalism.” Yamunan too was subject to some terse responses from Vaiko at a press meet recently. Watch here.

Veteran journalist with The Telegraph, GC Shekar, also says that in his initial days Vaiko got immense media supporte, much to the dislike of Karunanidhi, but the recent criticism has been his own fault he says. “Yes there was some controversy over him walking out of the interview, but he could have just moved on. Now he attacks media in his speeches or press conference without any provocation. When he does not want to answer a tough question, he blames the media for it. The media has not been unfair with him,” he says.

Another senior political editor with an English daily says that despite his behaviour, the media has given him due importance, “In fact the other day he came three hours late to a press conference and then just asked them to leave, and we still gave him coverage. Either all the attention has gone to his head, or he is showing his frustration with one or two channels on the whole media.”

“It could be his ego, or it could be a strategy on his part to discourage the media from asking critical questions,” says TN Gopalan, a senior journalist. But ultimately, both the media and Vaiko need each other, so the show will go on. 

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